The only disappointment for the Americans was the loss of Stuart Holden with another right knee injury. Holden sprained his knee early in the first half, and while he will have further tests, Klinsmann said after the game that "it's not looking good."
"We are very, very sad for him," Klinsmann said. "We are very concerned about Stuey's situation. It looks like a very serious knee injury."
While most expected a Mexico-US final, Panama had other ideas, upsetting El Tri twice on the strength of its stingy defense. Panama was just as dogged against the Americans early, crowding Donovan and Eddie Johnson and not giving the U.S. any space.
But rather than taking wild shots or trying to force things, the Americans stayed patient.
"At times it may have been a little slow or been going back and forth, but we stuck to the game plan," Besler said.
And as the game went on, the Americans began to break Panama down. They finished with three shots on goal and another eight that were off target — six in the second half alone. Their best chance came in the 56th minute, DaMarcus Beasley chipped a ball into Donovan, who was in front of the goal at the near post. Donovan got his head on the ball, but not at the angle he wanted and it flew wide of the net.
As the crowd groaned, Donovan threw back his head and Beasley swatted the red flag in the corner.
"We were all hopeful, we all wanted to win," Panama coach Julio Dely Valdez said. "But we all go away feeling we gave it our all. I said I wanted to walk away from the Gold Cup feeling good, and I do."
Shea replaced Joe Corona in the 68th minute, just as the Americans were pressing forward again. Alejandro Bedoya got the ball on his left foot and crossed to Donovan, who took a mighty swing — and missed. But it was enough to throw goalkeeper Jaime Pendeo off, and when the ball rolled past Panama's Roberto Chen and on toward the net, Shea was ready. Parked inches from the goal line, he stuck out his foot and tapped the ball into the net for his second international goal.
"It doesn't matter who scored today," Shea said. "We won."